Before you say, “Duh,” let me ‘splain it to you.
Every life experience, good or bad, teaches you something. And every hard lesson learned is valuable to possibly help someone else avoid the same mistakes. Kind of like the advice your parents gave you that you didn’t listen to when you were younger, but wish you had.
As writers, this becomes more apparent with each client we take on. New client equals a different business, which equals research or using past knowledge to tackle this new challenge.
Neither Bonnie nor I came out of the womb with a pad and pencil or a guitar grasped in our tiny hands, although it might occasionally feel that way. Besides being a writer/musician, I had a day job. Really. I had a 20-year stint as a customer service representative for various Southern California new home builders; basically, a liaison between the customer, builder, and subcontractor.
I conducted hundreds of new home tours, scheduled countless hours of repairs, including mold remediation and leak detection, and created mountains of paperwork. When the home building business took a nosedive in 2008, I joined a friend in his handyman business.
Let’s hear from Bonnie and learn about what work history she brings to the table.
Bonnie: My work history is incredibly varied. I’ve held many different types of jobs for short periods of time, which helps me be a good generalist today. In my early 20s, after saying goodbye to my role as Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street Live, I went straight to attending night school at Cal State LA, majoring in English Lit. During the day, I held multiple jobs working in human resources, billing, and administrative assistant roles. When I wasn’t at school, I also worked part time as a chocolate maker and baker at the Hard Rock Café. The mix of these types of jobs were good for my soul because both the administrative and creative sides of my brain were being used.
My goal at that time was to become a lawyer, so I went right into law school upon graduation. I continued to work a day job as a medical biller and go to law school at night. That lasted one year. In order to understand the lawyer’s life, I became a paralegal. Guess what. I hated working in civil lit and left that field altogether. I quit the whole shebang, bought a secondhand transcription machine, and taught myself to be a transcriber.
I’ve been working from home for over 20 years now, putting all of my largess in words to good use. From transcribing to proofreading to editing to report writing to copywriting, I’ve been able to grab bits and pieces of vocabulary from each of my previous jobs and insert that knowledge to inform my writing.
So you got a little taste of who we were before becoming the rockers of words.
Though music and writing fiction and screenplays are our passions, as the saying goes, “Ya gotta eat.” So, what to do? With our combined life experiences, and the natural capability of spinning words, copywriting seemed to be the obvious choice. Though writing copy may lack the prestige (real or imagined) of being a “serious” writer, it puts food on the table. And we like to eat.
So, what’s an ex-80s rocker and a former law student/paralegal going to write about?
Let’s start with me. Kenny. If I do a little brain dump about my past experiences, I can come up with quite a few things. Blogs about music, guitars, musicians, clubs, touring, best clubs to play and not to play, and the list goes on and on.
How about my construction past? I could delve into home maintenance tips, curb appeal, emergency tips, water leaks, mold, what to expect when you go on your new home tour, what constitutes great customer service, and so on. That’s just off the top of my head.
I could write website copy for realtors, home builders, rock bands, music stores, handyman businesses, home inspection businesses, how to write a screenplay, writing fiction, common mistakes writers make…
- What are your past experiences?
- What positions have you held?
- What didn’t work for you?
- What did work?
Your past work history contains valuable information. Let’s say you need copy for your personal or business website. You might consider a blog. Blogs are an excellent way of driving traffic to your site. Give your audience or customers something of value for free. Do not try to sell them something.
Here’s your call to action.
Turn off the television, put your phone in the next room (on silent) and sit down with a pen and pad for ten minutes. Make a list of past jobs; kind of like a family tree. Branch off each one and write down what your role was and make another branch off that with what knowledge was gained while there. Whether you flipped burgers, were an office manager or an artificial grass salesman, you’ve learned something.
Once done with past jobs, move on to passions using the same framework. It’s amazing how much information the brain picks up when were passionate about something. Is gardening, home decorating, baking, wine, running, or fitness your happy place? Your list will undoubtedly grow as you repeat the process.
This exercise focused on how your past work history can influence your current or future position. What to do, though, if you’ve chosen a career path that makes you feel as though you’re lost in the woods? You keep telling yourself the job is everything you studied and worked hard for, but in reality, it’s been a soul-sucking experience.
Well, you won’t find your way out by hacking your way through the office jungle. You might chop out yourself a wide-open space at the top of the mountain (finally, the corner office with a window!), but if that’s not what you’re meant to do, grab your machete and slice right through that solid mahogany office door and get yourself out.
I read an interesting article on medium.com by Brianna Wiest called, You’re Not Meant to Do What You Love. It’s worth a read if you are struggling with doing what you are good at as opposed to what you love to do.
Here are some quotes that resonated with me:
“If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done. To function as a society, there are labors that are necessary. Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life of passion because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose? No, of course not.”
‘The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life — it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give.”
Do we love writing about digital marketing, golf, and human trafficking? Yes, but these are not our true passions. Are we good at it? Youbetcha. These are things our clients are passionate about and we have to be good stewards of our skillset and put out the best blog or newsletter we can. I believe there’s something intrinsically rewarding about doing something you’re good at, even if you’d rather be writing the next Spielberg blockbuster.
So go out there and use your gifts, whether in your job, your hobby, or your passion project. The world needs more of Y-O-U.